What Happens to Matter Swallowed by Black Holes? Japanese Physicists May Finally Have an Answer


A team of physicists may have solved the mystery surrounding the matter that is swallowed by black holes. These physicists considered wormholes — theoretical tunnels with two ends at separate points in spacetime — to explain the long-held mystery. Black holes are regions in space through which no matter can pass. The gravity of a black hole is so strong that it pulls everything inside itself and allows nothing to get out, not even light. A team from Japan’s RIKEN research institute said that black holes mimic wormholes, meaning black holes have an escape tunnel to allow matter swallowed by them to release back into the universe.

The model suggested by these scientists, including RIKEN Interdisciplinary Theoretical and Mathematical Sciences researcher Kanato Goto, appears similar to the concept seen in popular science fiction movies. However, if validated, it could solve a long-standing information paradox about black holes.

According to Albert Einstein’s Theory Of General Relativity, nothing can escape from a black hole. But Stephen Hawking predicted in the 1970s that black holes should emit radiation (Hawking radiation) as they shrink. This is known as black hole “evaporation”. If Hawking’s concept is considered, the information about the matter a black hole swallowed should also evaporate with the black hole. But quantum physics says information cannot simply disappear from the Universe, leading to the paradox.

“This suggests that general relativity and quantum mechanics as they currently stand are inconsistent with each other. We have to find a unified framework for quantum gravity,” Goto said in a statement.

Several efforts have been made to understand whether information can escape from black holes, but a definite answer is still warranted. In theory, Goto and his colleagues have found an explanation to what happens to this information. “A wormhole connects the interior of the black hole and the radiation outside, like a bridge,” he said. But some questions remain unanswered. “We still don’t know the basic mechanism of how information is carried away by the radiation,” Goto added.


Solar Storm Warning: Expert Says at Least Two ‘Big-Flare Players’ Could Be Released From the Sun


A solar storm warning has been issued, with an expert saying that at least two “big-flare players” could be released from the Sun soon. Space weather physicist Dr. Tamitha Skov said that many sunspot clusters could be seen from the Earth. She added that though there were “no large Earth-directed storms yet,” they were on “high alert.” Solar flares, coronal mass ejections, high-speed solar wind, and solar energetic particles are the four main components of solar activity. Solar storm refers to the consequences that these events have on Earth.

So, do these solar activities impact the Earth? According to NASA, solar flares only have an influence on the Earth when they occur on the side of the Sun that is facing us. Similarly, coronal mass ejections — the huge clouds of plasma and magnetic field ejected from the Sun — will impact the Earth only if the cloud that’s ejected from the Sun points towards our planet. When it comes to the high-speed solar wind, only when they are closer to the solar equator, do they impact the Earth. Finally, solar energetic particles that follow magnetic field lines that intersect the Earth will cause any kind of impact.

Skov was quoted as saying by Express that “the pocket of fast solar wind from the small coronal hole is over-performing,” which might provide stunning aurora displays in various places across the planet. Skov also asked people to “enjoy a bit of aurora.”

Solar storms can have a variety range of effects on Earth, depending on their strength. According to the US Space Weather Center, geomagnetic storms are ranked on a scale of G1 Minor to G5 Extreme. While minor storms can cause “weak power grid fluctuations,” have an “impact on satellite operations,” affect migratory animals, extreme storms can lead to blackouts, cause widespread voltage control problems and grid systems to collapse, damage transformers, cause difficulties in spacecraft operations, and tracking satellites, among others.

A NASA blog states that the Sun’s magnetic cycle goes into an overdrive every 11 years. The Sun’s magnetic poles flip during the peak of this cycle, known as solar maximum. Changes in the Sun’s magnetic produce more sunspots, more energy, and induce solar particle outbursts along the way.


Perfectly Preserved Dinosaur Embryo Found Inside Fossilised Egg in Rare Discovery


Paleontologists have found a never-seen-before fossil of a complete baby dinosaur curled up inside its egg. The fossil showed the remarkable similarities between theropod dinosaurs and the birds they would evolve into, according to a new study. The 70-million-year-old fossilised embryo has been named “Baby Yingliang” after the museum in China which houses it. The embryo is curled up inside its 6-inch elongated eggshell. At this stage, the embryo looks like that of a modern bird, but it has small arms and claws rather than wings.

The egg is about 17cm long and the baby dinosaur curled inside it is estimated to have a length of 27cm from head to tail. Researchers said had it lived, it would have grown as an adult of about 2m to 3m long. Finding embryonic dinosaur fossils are extremely rare, with such discoveries being limited to only about half a dozen sites. And, this is the first time any of them has shown signs of “tucking,” a distinctive posture usually followed by baby birds during hatching when the head is under the right arm, paleontologists said.

The findings have been published in the iScience journal this week. Study co-author Darla Zelenitsky said baby dinosaur bones are small and fragile and are only very rarely preserved as fossils, making this a very lucky find. “It is an amazing specimen. I have been working on dinosaur eggs for 25 years and have yet to see anything like it,” added Zelenitsky in an email to CNN.

Waisum Ma, the lead author of the study, said, “We were surprised to see this embryo beautifully preserved inside a dinosaur egg, lying in a bird-like posture. This posture had not been recognised in non-avian dinosaurs before.”

The fossil, found in Jiangxi province, ended up in storage for about 10 years, when Yingliang Stone Nature History Museum staff sorted the boxes and found it.


Artemis 1 Moon Launch Delayed Again, NASA Reviewing March or April Launch Dates


NASA has again delayed its planned launch of the uncrewed lunar mission Artemis 1 by at least a month. The space agency had initially targeted the launch of the mission on February 12, 2022, but issues in the integrated testing programme have forced another schedule delay. The space agency has said it is now looking at launch opportunities in March and April. The Artemis programme aims to return astronauts to the Moon’s surface later this decade for a sustainable presence in a bid to reach Mars in the 2030s.

Artemis 1, which was first scheduled to launch by the end of this year, will also be the first flight of NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket. At least two more flights are planned under the programme. Artemis 2 is set for 2023 and Artemis 3 for the following year when humans will walk on the Moon for the first time since 1972. But the repeated delays in launching Artemis 1 is likely to push back the next two missions.

NASA said in a blog post that its engineers have detected a problem with one of the engine flight controllers. They performed a series of inspections and troubleshooting but finally decided to replace the engine controller. “NASA is developing a plan and updated schedule to replace the engine controller while continuing integrated testing and reviewing launch opportunities in March and April,”  the agency said.

The SLS rocket consists of a core booster and four RS-25 engines, each with an independent flight controller which NASA describes as the “brain” of the engine. And even a minor glitch in the “brain” can cause big problems for the space agency. NASA engineers, however, are continuously testing the SLS rocket and the Orion spacecraft at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, US.

Once all the final tests are done, rocket engineers will conduct a “wet dress” rehearsal, during which crews execute each step of launch preparations, including filling the rocket with propellant.


Crypto Pioneer Justin Sun Plans Space Trip With Blue Origin in 2022


Cryptocurrency pioneer Justin Sun will fly to space on billionaire Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin’s flight next year and invite five other crew mates, he said on Wednesday, joining a small list of wealthy entrepreneurs indulging in space travel.

Sun, who founded blockchain platform TRON, also revealed himself to be the anonymous bidder who paid $28 million (roughly Rs. 210 crore) in an auction for a seat to join Bezos aboard Blue Origin’s first crewed mission in July.

“I won the auction six months ago but missed the launch. However, this did not stop my love for space,” Sun said in a tweet.

“So I’m very excited to announce this news and turn this opportunity into a voyage with five other warriors to space with me because I believe that space belongs to everyone!”

Sun also said the five people he will nominate over the coming months may include a member of the TRON DAO community, long-term holders of certain cryptocurrencies and other leaders from fashion, technology, and entrepreneurship.

Recently, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa returned to Earth after a 12-day journey into space — making him the latest to have traveled to space via commercial space travel ventures founded by billionaires like Bezos, Richard Branson, and Elon Musk.

Originally from China, Sun said last week he was appointed Grenada’s representative to the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. He would be bringing the flag of the Caribbean nation with him on the space trip.

Sun shot to fame for his take on cryptocurrencies and when he won an auction for lunch with Warren Buffett for about $4.6 million (roughly Rs. 35 crore) in 2019.

© Thomson Reuters 2021


James Webb Space Telescope Launch Delayed by NASA to Christmas Day Due to Bad Weather


NASA has delayed the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, which would be the successor to the Hubble. The space agency said the launch will happen a day later than the earlier stipulated time, on Christmas Day, December 25, from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana, where high winds are a major factor. An Ariane 5 rocket will lift off on Saturday, carrying the next-generation space observatory. The $10-billion (roughly Rs. 75,330 crore) James Webb Space Telescope is the largest ever built and intended to help astronomers in breakthrough discoveries. It has been designed to look deeper into the universe than the Hubble and detect events from further back in time — over 13.5 billion years ago.

Hubble Space Telescope, currently the most powerful telescope in space, has offered great insights to astronomers for 30 years but its ageing and the need for a replacement was felt. So, NASA and ESA, who were also behind the Hubble project, decided to build an even larger and more powerful telescope. James Webb’s key difference from Hubble is that it can see in infrared. Scientists hope to use James Webb’s advanced capabilities to study the atmospheres of distant planets for signs of life.

NASA said in a blog post this week that they were targeting a launch date of December 25. A 32-minute launch window opens at 7:20am EST (5:50pm IST), it added. A BBC report said that mission controllers are taking into account high-level winds blowing in the wrong direction to avoid debris falling back on land if the launch fails. The ascent of the Ariane rocket is scheduled to last 27 minutes.

James Webb will be deployed in space some 1.5 million kilometres from Earth and it should take a month to complete the journey. “This is an extraordinary mission… It’s going to give us a better understanding of our Universe and our place in it,” said NASA administrator Bill Nelson.

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Life on Venus? MIT Scientists Say Theoretically Possible


The quest for life on planets other than ours has long held the attention of scientists. But most of their efforts have been unable to conclusively say if life really exists beyond Earth. From Moon to Mars, scientists have launched many probes and missions to uncover the mysteries. Venus, one of the most inhospitable planets in the solar system, too, has intrigued them. Venus has an atmosphere filled with carbon dioxide and a surface hot enough to melt lead, which makes it near-impossible to protect life as we know it.

Researchers at Cardiff University in Wales, however, created a flutter last year when they discovered significant sources of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus. They claimed the colourless and odourless gas, which occurs naturally from the breakdown of organic matter on Earth, could be a sign of life on our neighbouring planet. But this hypothesis has been called into question by others, who say the planet’s clouds are blanketing Venus in droplets of sulfuric acid which can burn a hole through human skin.

Still, Venus has been the most reliable candidate to harbour life beyond Earth. A new study by MIT scientists now says that these clouds could be a home to life. The study claims that the sulfuric acid on the planet could be neutralised by the presence of ammonia present in its atmosphere. Scientists have repeatedly observed anomalies in Venus’ atmosphere. The most puzzling of them is the presence of ammonia, a gas that was tentatively detected in the 1970s but has no known reason to be there.

The MIT scientists say ammonia is capable of chemical reactions that could turn Venus’ clouds into a hospitable place. “Our model predicts that the clouds are not entirely made of sulfuric acid, but are partially composed of ammonium salt slurries, which may be the result of biological production of ammonia in cloud droplets,” the researchers wrote in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal . In conclusion, they said, “life could be making its own environment on Venus.”

While these findings are exciting, they could only be confirmed if a probe is sent to Venus. Fortunately, NASA and ESA are planning to do so in the years ahead.


Taste the TV: Japan Professor Develops Lickable Screen Prototype


A Japanese professor has developed a prototype lickable TV screen that can imitate food flavours, another step towards creating a multi-sensory viewing experience.

The device, called Taste the TV (TTTV), uses a carousel of 10 flavour canisters that spray in combination to create the taste of a particular food. The flavour sample then rolls on hygienic film over a flat TV screen for the viewer to try.

In the COVID-19 era, this kind of technology can enhance the way people connect and interact with the outside world, said Meiji University professor Homei Miyashita.

“The goal is to make it possible for people to have the experience of something like eating at a restaurant on the other side of the world, even while staying at home,” he said.

Miyashita works with a team of about 30 students that has produced a variety of flavour-related devices, including a fork that makes food taste richer. He said he built the TTTV prototype himself over the past year and that a commercial version would cost about JPY 100,000 (roughly Rs. 65,810) to make.

Potential applications include distance learning for sommeliers and cooks, and tasting games and quizzes, he said.

Miyashita has also been in talks with companies about using his spray technology for applications like a device that can apply a pizza or chocolate taste to a slice of toasted bread.

Meiji student Yuki Hou, 22, demonstrated TTTV for reporters, telling the screen she wanted to taste sweet chocolate. After a few tries, an automated voice repeated the order and flavour jets spritzed a sample onto a plastic sheet.

“It’s kind of like milk chocolate,” she said. “It’s sweet like a chocolate sauce.”

© Thomson Reuters 2021


NASA Hubble Space Telescope Shares New Image to Show How Milky Way Would Appear From Afar


If something is close to our view, we tend to lose perspective. To have a clear picture, we need to create distance between ourselves and the view. Astronomers know the importance of visual separation far better than anyone else since they keep looking at the vastness of the Universe most of the time. But they too face problems. What if they wanted to see how our Milky Way looked? Being inside this galaxy makes us lose sight of what NASA calls the “big picture” of our home. True, how could we perceive how our home looks from the outside world when we would be sitting inside it. What then is the next big thing to do? It’s to find objects that are similar in shape, size and appearance to our home and try to see and deduce how our galaxy, the Milky Way, would look from a distance. NASA did exactly that.

Using its Hubble Space Telescope, NASA found another system in the Universe that looks like a distant cousin of the Milky Way. It released the image on the NASA Hubble Instagram page for astronomy enthusiasts to get a feeling of how the Milky Way looks. This system is a galaxy, named NGC 3949. It is about 50 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major. “NGC 3949, like our Milky Way, has a disk of blue, young stars peppered with bright pink star birth regions,” the space agency said.

The image of this spiral galaxy was first released by NASA in August 2004.

The Hubble, a joint project by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), has captured millions of such images and processes taking place around the Universe. These observations have deepened our understanding of the cosmos. Named after the trailblazing astronomer Edwin Hubble, this space-based observatory has been in service since 1990. Now, NASA and its international partners have set its successor to study the Universe in more detail. The James Webb Space Telescope is completing deployment at this time and is expected to be ready for science experiments by this summer.

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The Most Dangerous Asteroid Discovered in a Decade Won’t Hit Earth, Says ESA


On January 7, space scientists in Europe discovered a large asteroid that appeared to be on a collision course with Earth. They calculated that the 230-feet-wide asteroid, named 2022 AE1, was set to hit Earth on July 4, 2023. The time they had to deflect its path was too narrow to actually mount a response, according to the European Space Agency (ESA). The prospect was frightening. Space defenders feared if the asteroid hit the Earth it would likely wipe out a city, causing destruction similar to what the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima in Japan did at the end of World War II. But a recalculation of the asteroid’s trajectory has revealed it will miss the Earth, the ESA added.

ESA’s Near-Earth Object Coordination Centre (NEOCC) said that initial orbit calculations in the first week of the discovery indicated an increased collision risk. Their fear was validated by experts at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Then the asteroid disappeared from the astronomers’ view for a week because of the bright glow around the full moon.

When it re-emerged, fresh observations were made. These changed the calculations, proving that the asteroid would pass by Earth at a safe distance of 10 million kilometres, more than 20 times Earth-moon distance, the ESA said in a statement.

On the Palermo scale, which quantifies risks posed by near-Earth asteroids, the initial calculation showed “the highest-ranking” in more than a decade, said Marco Micheli, an astronomer at ESA’s Near-Earth Object Coordination Center (NEOCC) in Italy.  

Asteroids have hit Earth in the recent past, but they are usually smaller in size. In 2013, a meteorite about 66 feet in diameter exploded close to Earth’s surface over southern Russia. It injured nearly 1,500 people.

In November last year, NASA launched the DART mission to test whether it would be possible to deflect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth off course. The spacecraft will hit a 525 feet-wide asteroid in September this year.